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Stoughton Public School System Releases Draft of Attendance Policy

The draft of the policy limits unexcused absences to no more than 11 per school year.

A draft of an updated Attendance Policy for the limits unexcused absences to no more than 11 per school year, across the district, at the elementary, middle and high school levels.

The draft of the policy was released Friday afternoon, and posted on the School Department’s website.

According to the draft of the policy, “all absences (even those authorized by parents) are considered unexcused unless the required documentation is provided.”

Examples of excused absences, according to the draft of the policy, include:

• Illness or quarantine (with a doctor’s note)

• Bereavement or serious illness in family

• Observance of major religious holidays

• Legal (with documentation from the court, lawyer etc.)

• Other – a student may be excused for other absences with approval from the school administrator.

The policy makes it clear that “family vacations are not considered excused absences.”

“The School Committee strongly discourages families from taking vacation during the school year,” the policy states. “Teachers will not be required to provide work prior to a student leaving for vacation. The student will be required to make up all missed work upon their return to school.”

The policy also prohibits students from participating in after-school activities if they were absent that school day.

Additional stipulations are made for students. For example, students enrolled in a semester course are only allotted five unexcused absences.

High school seniors may be excused up to four days for college visits. “Appropriate documentation from a college visit or college fair attendance will be required in order to receive credit for the days,” according to the draft of the policy.

The School Department asks if anyone has comments or suggestions to send them to m_shea@stoughtonschools.org.

A full copy of the draft of the attendance policy is included below and is posted in the media gallery.

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ATTENDANCE POLICY (DRAFT):

Regular and punctual school attendance is essential for success in school. The Committee does recognize that parents of children attending our schools have special rights as well as responsibilities, one of which is to ensure that their children between the ages of 6 and 16 attend school regularly, in accordance with State law. State law requires the school system to investigate cases of excessive school absence. For this purpose, the Committee defines excessive absence as more than eleven (11) unexcused absences per school year. All absences (even those authorized by parents) are considered unexcused unless the required documentation is provided.

Therefore, students may be excused temporarily from school attendance for the following reasons:

• Illness or quarantine (with a doctor’s note)

• Bereavement or serious illness in family

• For observance of major religious holidays

• Legal (with documentation from the court, lawyer etc.)

• Other – a student may be excused for other absences with approval from the school administrator.

Documentation for the above absences should be provided to the school principal or designee within five (5) school days of the absence. Documentation provided after ten (10) school days may require a meeting with a principal or designee.

Clear communication between parents and the school is imperative to ensure the safety of students and to reinforce a student’s understanding of the importance of day-to-day schoolwork. Accordingly, parents should provide a written explanation for the absence of a child. This should be provided in advance for types of absences where advance notice is possible.

Family vacations are not considered excused absences. The School Committee strongly discourages families from taking vacation during the school year. When children are absent from school for the purpose of family vacations, their learning is interrupted and their progress may be affected. Teachers will not be required to provide work prior to a student leaving for vacation. The student will be required to make up all missed work upon their return to school.

Unexcused absence from school is considered truancy and will be treated as such. This includes absence from any class or activity during the school day for which the student is scheduled. It also includes any after-school special help session or disciplinary session that the student has been directed to attend by a teacher or administrator. Disciplinary action shall be taken in such case, beginning with notification of parents. Continued violation may lead to more serious repercussion, up to and including suspension from school.

If a child is absent, he or she cannot participate in after-school or evening events on the day(s) on which he or she is absent. The principal will have the authority to excuse a student’s absence and allow the student to participate, based on the principal’s understanding of the events surrounding the absence.

Excessive unexcused absences will require assessment and intervention by the school administration. Interventions may include contact with parents, school conferences, case management services and service referral. In situations in which attendance does not improve despite intervention by the school administration, the school may take one or more of the following actions:

• A Failure To Send, Criminal Complaint, against the parent will be sought at the Stoughton District Court

• A 51A for parental neglect will be filed with the Department of Children and Families

• A CHINS petition will be sought at the Dedham District Juvenile Court.

For High School students (in addition to policy stated above):

1. Students enrolled in a semester course (~20 weeks) will be denied credit if they have more than five (5) unexcused absences during the course.

2. Students enrolled in a yearlong course (~40 weeks) will be denied credit if they have more than eleven (11) unexcused absences during the course.

3. Student enrolled in a course other than a semester or year long course will be denied credit when they exceed a number of unexcused absences determined by multiplying the number of days in the course by 0.061 and rounding to the nearest whole number.

Students in the high school may also earn back days of missed attendance by attending Saturday School (a day for a day), or its equivalent, as made available by the high school administration.

Additionally, high school seniors may be excused for up to four (4) days for college visits. High school juniors may be excused to attend one (1) session of the annual NACAC National College Fair or its equivalent. Appropriate documentation from a college visit or college fair attendance will be required in order to receive credit for the days.

LEGAL REFS: M.G.L. 76:1; 76:2; 76:16; 76:20; 119:39E; 119:51A

lowertaxes June 25, 2011 at 03:26 AM
Maybe they should make a rule like this for the teachers as well. Between sick days and personal days there are many teachers in the town who are out for far more than 11 days. Plus, we are paying for their days off.
SoxFan June 26, 2011 at 01:31 PM
I don't take my kids to the Dr. for every illness that requires them to stay home. Especially the ones when they need to be close to the bathroom . And, those co-pays can be tough.
Sarah June 26, 2011 at 07:32 PM
I agree, Donna. I only bring my children to the doctor when they need medication. For the typical viral illness, they need to be home resting, not sitting in a waiting room only to be told to go home and rest (after a $20 charge, of course!) But, I suppose if a child is sick more than 11 days in a school year they would probably need a doctor's consultation anyway.
Fiscal Conservative June 29, 2011 at 03:08 PM
What about the time teachers "waste" during the school day. Movies, parties, extra recess and many other forms of non educational activites. Heck, I would imagine there really wasn't a whole lot going on in the classroom from June 1 on. What about all the times that teachers are out "ill"? Are parents getting their $$$ worth? Its a two way street as far as I'm concerned, both parents & teachers must be accountable for the childs education. When parents take the kids out for vacation, they are letting their kids down. When teachers take excessive time off or give too much "free time" to students, they are leeting the kids down. So, both parents & teachers, don't let "your" time come first, rather than the students. Parents, you have plenty of time for vacations. Teachers, the TAXPAYER is paying you to work the school year without taking excessive time off. Those "sick" days are to be used when you're sick. Many of you couldn't make it in industry where you may only receive 3 - 5 days off a year. As a TAXPAYER I expect you to work as hard as you can for your salary. You just received a new contract, honor it by working as many days as you SHOULD. Every 6 - 8 weeks you've got a week off anyway. Let admistration handle the students absences. Maybe, we taxpayers, should have access to teachers attendence records, so we can see determine who abuses their "sick" time. I know teachers attitudes may change if the public had access to these records.

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